The ELCO football family prides itself on grooming young adults and preparing them for the real world. That purposeful emphasis makes saying goodbye even more difficult.
On a crisp Friday night at Twin Valley High School in Elverson, ELCO sent a group of 19 seniors off to bigger and better things, following a 35-7 loss to Twin Valley in the quarterfinals of the District Three Class AAAA playoffs. Four different players accounted for Twin Valley’s five rushing touchdowns, as the home team opened a 35-0 third-quarter bulge.
With the result, seventh-seeded ELCO concluded its solid campaign at 8-4. Along the way, ELCO set a number of program records, became the best version of itself, established lasting relationships and developed skills that will serve its members a lifetime.
The loss dropped ELCO to 3-8 all-time in the District Three playoffs and made Lebanon County teams 8-36 overall in the scholastic postseason. No Lebanon County team has ever won a District Three football championship.
Second-seeded Twin Valley moved to 10-1 on the year and into next weekend’s District Three Class AAAA semifinals.
“We talked about the lessons they learned from football, lessons that will make them better young people” said ELCO head coach Bob Miller of the post-game address to his team.
“They’re all going to do those things in life. They’ve proven themselves. Now they’ve just got to stay on track.
“It’s not about tonight,” continued Miller. “It’s about what we accomplished since heat acclimation (at the beginning of August). It’s about getting to the playoffs. But most importantly it’s about all the relationships and the standards they set.”
“This experience taught me a lot,” said ELCO senior running back Jake Williams. “It taught me how to follow and then it taught me how to lead. It taught me how to sacrifice to do great things. I respect the coaches a lot.”
Twin Valley had opened its five-score advantage in part by bottling up ELCO’s vaunted rushing game featuring Williams. But on the first snap of the final quarter, the prolific Williams finally broke loose, with a 47-yard touchdown run.
“If I had to use one word to describe this group it would be ‘resilient,’” said Miller. “They never backed down. They always kept fighting. You saw it tonight in the fourth quarter. When you’re in a fight and you get knocked down, the worst thing you can do is not get up.
“All of our losses were to good teams,” Miller added. “In some, we didn’t play well. In others, we had injuries.”
“They’re the better team,” said Williams of Twin Valley. “We gave it our all. Sometimes you’ve just got to tip your cap. We played our hearts out.”
Twin Valley racked up 343 yards on the ground in out gaining ELCO 426 total yards to 212.
After being held to 51 rushing yards in the opening half, Williams finished with 21 carries and 157 yards on the ground. He closed out his senior year with 30 touchdowns and 2,390 rushing yards, a total that represented the second most in the 50-year history of the Lancaster-Lebanon League.
“We have some players coming back,” said Miller. “But I’m not sure if we can replicate Jake’s humbleness. It’s pretty cool how he goes about his business.”
“We were just hoping we could do what we do,” said Williams. “And hopefully get a win. But they’re a super good team.”
After the ELCO defense forced an early fumble, Twin Valley scored touchdowns on three straight possessions from late in the first quarter to the middle of the second to open a 21-0 advantage. Twin Valley enjoyed a 28-0 halftime lead and brought the mercy rule into play with 3:10 left in the third quarter, when it drove 92 yards in 13 plays to get Evan Johnson’s four-yard burst to the promised land.
“I want to focus on the big picture, the 48 minutes of heart that these kids just played,” said Miller. “The seniors are the ones who reset the standard and got this playoff experience to be an expectation. The leadership they showed is what’s going to stand out.”
“At the beginning of the season, we wanted to have fun every day, and you saw it in practice,” Miller continued. “These guys love being around each other. It was a solid defense that got us to this point. We wanted to have the best football experience possible, and I thought we did that.”
“I’m just proud to be on this team with these guys,” said Williams.
“To be a teammate, to be a captain, it’s been an honor. It’s been great being best friends off the field and being teammates on the field. I’ll remember the ability we had to love each other and just watching people grow in faith.”
Head Coach: Robert Miller
Assistant Coaches: John Carley, Robert Williams, Wyatt Hall, Earl Thomas, John Wetzel
|53||Alex Muniz Cruz||Sr.||OL/DL|
Questions about this story? Suggestions for a future LebTown article? Reach our newsroom using this contact form and we’ll do our best to get back to you.
Do you want to see more from LebTown?
Support local news. Cancel anytime.
Already a member? Login here
Free news isn’t cheap. If you value the journalism LebTown provides to the community, then help us make it sustainable by becoming a champion of local news. You can unlock additional coverage for the community by supporting our work with a one-time contribution, or joining as a monthly or annual member. You can cancel anytime.